Less than a week after independent ATM operators sued Visa Inc., and MasterCard Inc., over an alleged fee-fixing scheme, a class of ATM users has filed a similar lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
Visa and MasterCard - the largest issuers of debit payment cards in the United States - are accused of conspiring with banks to restrict ATM operators from setting their own fees. The ATM operators, led by the National ATM Council, filed suit on Oct. 12, also in Washington federal court.
The latest complaint (PDF), filed on Monday, would include a class of any Visa- or MasterCard-issued debit payment card users in the United States who paid an ATM fee from October 2007 until the present. The complaint doesn't say how many class members the suit could include, but given the national scope, the number could be in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
Like the lawsuit filed by the ATM operators, the ATM users’ complaint accuses Visa and MasterCard of leveraging their ties to major banks to force ATM operators to agree to fixed transaction fees.
According to both complaints, the agreements mean operators have to charge fixed fees regardless of the type of transaction or whether the transaction is made over a Visa or MasterCard network. The arrangement, the ATM operators and users claim, keeps out competitor networks and makes it nearly impossible for ATM operators to offer special deals to bring in customers or customize fees to fit different types of transactions.
“The ATM restraints prevent ATM operators from offering their customers a discount or benefit for completing a transaction over a network that is less costly to the ATM operator, so consumers cannot be rewarded for using a lower cost and more efficient network,” the ATM users claim in their complaint.
Seattle plaintiffs’ firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro is representing the class. Attorneys could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.
Representatives for both Visa and MasterCard also could not immediately be reached.
The ATM users, like the ATM operators, are seeking treble damages. Both cases are before U.S. District Judge Amy Jackson.